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You may have witnessed a situation in which a caregiver was getting overly angry, frustrated, threatening or even beginning to hit, slap or otherwise hurt a child, as seen in the video below.
You may have left the situation feeling concerned for the child’s well-being and wondering what you could have done. Sometimes you may be able to defuse a difficult situation by taking the time to calmly offer help and support as the waitress does in the video below.
Strategies for Defusing Difficult Situations
A quiet presence may be all that is needed
Avoid judgmental attitudes
Sympathize with the frustrations and stress that parent/children may be experiencing
Address the stressors
Identify situations where it is not safe to intervene and call the authorities
“Is anything wrong?”
“May I help you with anything?”
“It looks like you are having a hard time (rough day). May I help you with anything?”
These statements allow both parent and child to respond; alerts parent that others are watching; and creates a break in the behavior, but doesn't rebuke or criticize.
“It's hard for a 2 year old to sit still/behave for long periods. Would it help if I found something for him to play with?”
This highlights that the child's behavior is developmentally normal, not “bad” and models the use of distraction.
“You've been waiting a long time." Or “Active children your son's age can test your sanity at times, especially when you are under pressure.” Followed by, “May I…give you a break…get you a drink of water…get him a toy…take him to the play area?”
This is sympathetic to parent's stress/needs and doesn't make child look bad.
However, you may also recognize that the child is in imminent danger of being hurt. Call 911 for immediate help, as the man in the video below does.